10 High Paying Tech Jobs Without a Degree in 2013

Ever wonder what kind of jobs without a degree are out there? I’ve compiled a list of 10 jobs that pay over $70,000 on average and do not require any formal education.

Note: none of the jobs below require a college degree, but this is not to say employers do not prefer a degree. In most cases, experience and proficiency is all that is required to get these jobs. In some of these, certifications are must-have prerequisites, however many of these certifications can be obtained without going to college.

10 Jobs Without a College Degree that Pay over $70k

JobPayRequirements
1.  Ruby on Rails programmer$120,000At least 2 years of experience. Adequate proficiency.
2. Marketing Manager$75,000 - 120,000Experience (Usually 3 years or more) and adequate proficiency.
3. Web Developer$76,000 - 90,000Experience and proficiency.
4.   Mobile Application Developer$90,000Experience and proficiency.
5.  Software Engineer$89,000Experience and proficiency.
6.   Database Administrator$82,000Microsoft certifications, MySQL certification.
7.  Video Game Designer$80,000Experience and proficiency.
8.  User Interface Designer$79,000Marketing experience, best practices knowledge and graphic software knowledge.
9.  Computer Systems Analyst$79,000Experience, certifications (CISSP, MCTS, MCSD).
10.  Network Administrator$76,000Experience, certifications (Microsoft's MCSA, Cisco's CCNA, CCNP, CCIE)

You may notice that Ruby on Rails programmer is technically a web developer or can be better classified under a broader “programmer” category. However, I thought it would be best to list it separately as there is an incredible demand out there for programmers who specialize in Ruby specifically. The job is incredibly rewarding for those willing to learn the ropes and pretty much guarantees employment as long as you know what you’re doing.

Between the ten, there are four particular jobs that can be obtained through self-education and practice:

  1. RoR Programmer
  2. Marketing Manager
  3. Web Developer
  4. User Interface Designer

The others can be quite challenging and require extensive learning to pass difficult certifications. The good news is, some places do not require you to be certified. It all depends on the area and the type of market you’re looking to get a job in. Though, majority do look for certified professionals, and the difficult of certifications often drives people to go to school rather than study on their own.

Personal Preference

I would personally love to learn the Ruby programming language and become a Ruby on Rails (RoR) programmer. The low barrier to entry (compared to others) and a nice salary are  very attractive factors. Who wouldn’t want to make more money without going back to school?!

My biggest obstacle so far is … *drum roll* … myself! I’ve been making excuses to find time to learn even though there are plenty of tutorials and learning materials out there, including the premium course I purchased a few months ago and have yet to touch.

Would you consider pursuing one of these careers? If so, which one and why?

32 Comments

  1. I work in IT as a Solutions Architect (whatever that means) and I have a range of different certifications which apparently are required for my job (Bachelor of IT, CCNA, MCSE, VCP, RHCE, CCA, PRINCE2 practitioner, ITIL V3, COBIT) and can program in pretty much any language (including Ruby) due to my time as a software developer.

    For many of the projects that we conduct at work (a lot have IT components of between $3 and10 million) I have to hire consultants to implement or sanity check the designs that I produce. I often have to review up to 100-200 applicants for contracting opportunities on these projects, and not a single person without the relevant qualifications ever gets selected.
    Why?
    Because it is too much of a liability to my workplace due to the risk of hiring someone who is “on paper” an unskilled resource.
    Lets say you have the bare minimum certification – like say a CCNA, You might get lucky and find an entry level job, but you will always lose out in a job application scenario to someone who has a degree or other related technology skills.

    Also, to anyone thinking about getting into these fields – Yes the pay is good, really good if you get to the top of your field. But the amount of extra work involved in keeping your certifications up to date is insane. Almost every 2nd night I have to study for about 1-2 hours just to make sure I am keeping abreast of the latest technologies.
    The exams are hard, most of the certs i listed above require a 70-80% pass mark, so you really need to know what you are doing.

    Sorry for the long ranty comment.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..How to Avoid BankruptcyMy Profile

    • Glen, it’s so great to hear from someone who actually works in the IT industry. I’ve heard certifications can be very challenging and made sure to mention it there. Also, I can see how it might be very difficult to keep up with the newest technology, it seems to change so fast today!

      That being said, I’m confident that IT jobs are so diverse that it would be wrong to classify all under an umbrella of education requirements or skill requirements. I personally know an IT manager who’s skills are very limited and makes the top of his pay scale. Also know an Network Admin who taught himself – never went to college. Really smart guy, learned all of the things on his own, got few certifications and has been working at the same place for over 15 years making top pay. Whenever new technology comes out he just makes sure to learn about it and understand it with possible uses in the field, but other than that doesn’t go after new certifications.

      This makes me believe that no job is alike and no boss will require the same from two people in the same position at different companies.

      • Obviously there are going to be exceptions to what I said, but I work for a critical national infrastructure company and so they place a high importance on making sure people are qualified to do a job.

        I’m sure there are other technology related fields are are less competitive and where you can still make decent money without needing higher education.
        Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Meringue with Chocolate Hazelnut ToppingMy Profile

    • I bet it’s tough and I bet you are constantly having to update to keep up with the changes. I don’t work in IT (although it was my first love) but I also have to keep up with technology (computer programs etc so I can do my job effectively. In my field you will need an education and it’s true some people can walk in and say hey I trained myself or someone trained me and I have no formal education. It’s up to the employer to judge whether they are willing to risk and invest in that employee. Good points Glenn. Mr.CBB
      Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Best Home Renovations-Money Wasted or Money Invested?My Profile

    • Exactly, I keep thinking about it every day but finding the time to work on it is a different story. I’m hoping after Christmas one particular annoying thing I’ve had to work on will go away and make room for some programming practice.

  2. I would consider pursuing some of them, BUT I am terrible when it comes to computers and couldn’t do design if my life depended on it. A lot of it, from my experience at least, comes down to hands on experience which is why a degree is not always the best route. All that said, I may look at some fields like this in the future if we’re looking for a way to expand our business.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..More Blogging Tips From a BeginnerMy Profile

  3. I’m with John in that I couldn’t design anything if my life depended on it. I’m just not the creative sort so I really wouldn’t do well in that capacity. I’d be more than happy to pursue these types of opportunities but it would require a lot of learning and an entry-level position as I don’t have expertise in any of these related fields.
    Jason @ WorkSaveLive recently posted..4 Keys to Achieving Financial PeaceMy Profile

    • Hmmm, I’ve heard of some jobs that require very little education but start off with decent pay, I may do a post on that soon.

    • I’ll write a post for non-tech-savvy people in the future. Though I suspect more research will have to be done there, as I’m not familiar with non-tech things.

  4. The problem with lists like these is that they focus on how much people who can actually get jobs make and ignore what the rate is of people who actually manage to get these jobs. I forget what the actual number was, but I read somewhere that only a small fraction of game developers ever get hired. I’m sure it’s the same for mobile web developers. The vast majority of them are probably only making a few dollars a year from their efforts.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Three Tips for Christmas Decorating on a BudgetMy Profile

    • That’s true for game developers, but I can’t say with certainty the same about mobile web developers. The mobile market is growing significantly and there is plenty of demand for web development for the mobile environment. Hmm, it might be interesting to follow up with a post about frequency of hiring in these industries and a detailed look at what’s required.

      • I think a lot of it has to do with the developer himself. Since it IS possible to get web jobs without a degree, many people have been able to get low level jobs in it. However, many of these people also do not have the computer science background necessary to learn new languages and applications quickly.

        For example, I’m brushing up on my PHP with a night course right now. The teacher told everyone to consider arrays as a set of items starting at index 0. Well that’s fine and good, but they’ll never realize WHY indices start at zero (it’s due to how it’s addressed in memory) and if they don’t know that, they won’t understand why arrays are more efficient than linked lists, and if they don’t know THAT… etc etc.

        Web development is especially prone to getting self taught or trade school taught people. But when the company expands, will they be able to keep up?
        CF recently posted..Selling items effectively on CraigslistMy Profile

  5. Technology is definitely a great place to be right now in regards to jobs and pay. Generally you do need a degree (and the proper certs) to make it past the HR blackhole, so I agree 100% with Glenn. I work as an IT Project Manager, so I see first hand the amount of work that goes into these high paying jobs. (2nd echo of Glenn)
    Jason Clayton | frugal habits recently posted..Save Thousands of Dollars with this One little RuleMy Profile

    • So, would it be accurate to say that you believe a network admit has a lower chance of being hired even having all the required certs and years of experience at a previous entry-level job?

    • There is decent work in WordPress development. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but some developers on ThemeForest make a comfortable six figures doing it.

    • Oh, don’t give up. If you’re really serious about it, there are free online resources to start learning programming right away. Tutorials, quizzes, games, you name it – it’s there. The tough part is actually getting yourself to dedicate to something. I know this is where I struggle the most.

  6. As a software developer, I’d say that having a degree (in computer science myself) helps you get past A LOT of resumes, just because it’s an easy way for HR to vet candidates. That being said, if you are able to get an interview through a recommendation or a stellar portfolio/resume, a good candidate will most likely get the job regardless of whether or not he has a degree. Technical interviews are so intensive and generally problem-solving based. If you could not do problems asked of you, it doesn’t matter what piece of paper you have.
    CF recently posted..Selling items effectively on CraigslistMy Profile

    • I’ve worked in IT for quite a few years and many times experience and knowledge is looked at before education.
      If a person is resourceful they can teach themselves more than any IT course will teach them.

      Many times I interviewed people with certifications and when it came time for them to answer the technical questions they didn’t have a clue even though they had passed the necessary exams to receive the certificate.
      Tackling Our Debt recently posted..Dispel the Myth That All Work at Home Jobs are CrapMy Profile

  7. Terrific list. I’m a horrible programmer, it takes patience and creativity, which I’m a little short on. But I do work in IT. I’m not a hiring manager, but I can’t imagine anyone hiring one of these positions without a degree, especially senior positions. With unemployment being how it is, I can imagine HR being extra picky. Sorry to rain on the parade.
    Buck Inspire recently posted..American Express Small Business SaturdayMy Profile

    • No problem :) Different strokes for different folks. Wait.. does that saying apply here? Lol. I believe I mentioned somewhere that most people will look for a degree between candidates, but its not the same as saying they’re 100% required. Off the top of my head there are 4 different times I can think of someone getting a good paying job in one of these fields without a degree. This is especially true in programming.

  8. Pingback: Personal Finance Week in Review #40 — WorkSaveLive

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